Did you ever wonder, when we check out pashminas they all look different. Not only in terms of embroideries on them but also in the touch and feel. There are many types of traditional embroideries which are part of a pashmina industry since centuries and they still go hand in hand. In earlier times, it was only pure pashmina that was used to weave shawls but later more methods and fibers were introduced to make it more economical.
Here we will talk more about the wool variations and embroideries. Although shawls have taken different forms and types, originally, they have been made of mainly three materials Merino Wool, Pashmina and Shahtoosh.
Since the 12th century merino wool is being acquired from the Merino sheep, that originated in Spain. Today more than 80% of it is being produced in Australia. The wool is known for its alluring dazzle, softness and sensitivity. It is said to be the kind of wool that breathes and the type of wool that is really sought for and loved by one and all. It is fine wool with the diameter of each fiber ranging roughly around 18 microns to 24 microns. From this we get the high end finished products.
Pashmina is made from an exotic wool fiber, known for its finesse, softness, warmth and beauty. It is a fine product attained from a breed of goats known as chanthangi goat, that are reared within the Tibetan area of 4000 meters in winter. For the best pashmina, the fiber diameter ranges from 12.5 micron to 15 micron. The less the diameter, more soft it will be.
It is made up of the hair of the Tibetan antelope found on the Tibetan plateau of eastern ladakh. It is a rare class of shawls due to the scarcity and availability of the raw material. It is not as easy to get the wool from antelope as compared to sheep and goats. Here antelope is killed and then its wool is reared. This had led to the verge of extinction of antelopes and number of regulations are in place to save the antelopes. The diameter of fibre is 10 micron to 12 micron.
Pure pashmina is very expensive due to the availability and the processes involved in making each piece. To make it more affordable, automation is required. As Pashmina cant tolerate the high tension induced by the machines, the whole process to make is handmade. These factors gave rise to a new fiber called semi pashmina. Semi Pashmina is the mix of wool with silk. Usually its 70% wool and 30% pure silk but according to the embroideries done on it, more variations are done like 60-40 and 50-50. Wool could be pure pashmina or merino wool. Wool and silk is blended together to get the same soft feel and warmth. With the addition of silk, it gives a light sheen to the final product. Its fibre diameter ranges from 15 micron to 20 micron.
Craftsmanship / Embroideries on Wraps
There are various types of embroideries available on the pashmina, adding to its value & elegance. The intricate boarders of thread work tilla and sometimes the exquisite embroidery that covers the entire surface called jamawar becoming the price deciding factors of the piece.
Kani from Kanihama area of Kashmir has been making fashion statements since the Mughal Era and is one of the oldest handicrafts of Kashmir. The pattern is weaved in with the help of a can needle. The designs varies from full complicated jaal to just the borders known as Border Kani. There can be as many as 40 colors used in a single Kani shawl. Today the demand for these shawls is so high that the markets are flooded with their near cousins that are printed imitations of them. But it is always worth owning an original Kani Shawl.
Jamawar fabric’s roots are also attributed to Kashmir in India. The name is derived from Urdu language where Jama means ‘a robe or shawl’ and War means ‘Yard (the measuring unit)’. Earlier people used to buy a yard of Jamawar Shawl to protect themselves from harsh cold meteorological conditions. The Jamawar is a unified form of Pashmina silk containing a blend of cotton, wool and pashmina entailing a large hues of colors which renders an inimitable uniqueness to each Jamawar shawl.
A Jamavar shawl has silk thread work intertwined into the fabric with no loose threads on the back side. The intricate paisley themes and designs on a fabric truly gives a rich and distinctive look
Sozni is a marriage of the art style with the imagination. Sozni embroidery uses thin needles and silk threads to create elaborate floral or paisley patterns on pashmina shawls and stoles. The needle work panel of abstracts or flower motif designs on boarders of the shawls is created with satin stitch and has identical designs on both sides along the breadth of a shawl or covers the entire surface of a shawl. The colorful motifs are so intricately embroidered that the pashmina base is barely visible. Sozni requires patience and hard work.
Aari is considered to be one of the most tedious forms of needle work, Aari hand embroidery is the specialty of Kashmiri artisans. They use hooked needles, also called tambour, to create intrinsic, concentric loops. This fine art has been in existence in India since 16th century, when Mughals patronized it to create elaborate and highly refined floral patterns for the royal garments. Pashmina shawls and stoles embroidered with aari work in both traditional and contemporary styles is often used by the royals to add to their adornments
Tilla is a golden or silver thread, which is used to embroider paisleys and florets along the borders of a pashmina shawl like a precious jewel. Worked on with needles of size 28 which help in finely captivating embroidery that makes every wrap a regal affair. Tilla in historic terms was used for Royalty and was treasured amongst the elite. With time, the golden and silver thread of Tilla acquires an antique look and ages like an artifact. Just like the other art forms on Pashmina, Tilla embroidery is a legacy investment and this is often passed on from generations.
Kalamkari is a unification of two words "kalam" - brush and "kari" - work. Kalamkari means the work of the pen. The intricacy with which Kalamkari is done involves a kalamkar (worker) who traditionally uses bamboos and wooden cut pens dipped in inks made from vegetable pigment. It is a traditional art form that helps create beautiful kinds of fabrics.Although Kalamkari is not a traditionally a Kashmiri art form, it was alchemized on pashmina shawls where traditional patterns of printing are resonated in designs and collections on Pashmina Shawls.